Tensions were running high in Israel's right-wing Likud Party on Sunday, ahead of the party's central committee meeting where Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's policy of "restraint" is expected to come under fire, according to the Jerusalem Post.
Observers are also eyeing a possible showdown between Sharon and former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said the newspaper.
Representatives of Sharon and Netanyahu nevertheless assured the Likud central committee chairman, Environment Minister Tzahi Hanegbi, that they would do their utmost to prevent provocative actions by their supporters at the meeting at the Tel Aviv Cinerama.
Sharon's bureau chief, Uri Shani, and Netanyahu's bureau chief, Shlomo Filber, will Sunday to coordinate last-minute details in an attempt to prevent the central committee meeting from becoming a free-for-all, said the paper.
"No one has an interest in letting the meeting get out of hand," Hanegbi said.
Hanegbi decided to prevent motions from being presented at the meeting, including a one by Netanyahu ally MK Yisrael Katz calling for an end to Sharon's restraint policy and for the Palestinian Authority to be branded a “terror organization,” said the paper.
The meeting will be limited to the 2,700 central committee members, but an exception was made for some 50 members of the Likud youth movement.
Sources close to Netanyahu claimed these youths have been instructed to cheer Sharon and fall silent during Netanyahu's speech.
Sources in Sharon’s office, meanwhile, confirmed that Sharon would reveal new aspects of his social and economic plan at the meeting, telling the central committee that passing such a plan required continued Likud partnership with Labor in the national unity government, despite the challenges this created.
"Sharon is going to stand by his government of national unity, come hell or high water," the source in Sharon’s office said.
Aware of the vast opposition in the central committee to Foreign Minister Shimon Peres' power in the government, Labor Party Secretary General Ra'anan Cohen called upon Sharon to restrain Likud officials from insulting Peres and Labor at the meeting, the paper went on to say.
While Sharon and Netanyahu have pledged not to attack each other, the members of the central committee have made no such commitment, and several said that if they got a chance to speak they would not pull their punches.
"Sharon should quit the government immediately and Netanyahu should go the United States for the rest of his life," said central committee member Joe Kravat of Elkana. Kravat, who has asked to speak, said that both Sharon and Netanyahu had lost the right to serve as prime minister "because they forgot their ideology." – Albawaba.com
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